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Christie Hawkins Just Crossed a MAJOR Milestone with Her Membership

Christie Hawkins just crossed a MAJOR milestone of having a million dollar membership within two and a half years. In this episode you’re going to hear how she did it! 

Q&A With Christie Hawkins


Why Christie Started the Membership

Stu McLaren: Let’s start off and give the punch line of what major milestone did you just cross?

Christie Hawkins: We just crossed the milestone of having a million dollar membership within two and a half years! 

Stu McLaren: Let’s go back to the moment when you had the idea for the membership. Where you were at and what you were thinking then?

Christie Hawkins: I own The Social Easel and I teach women how to paint. I’ve been an artist my whole life, and at the time of starting a membership, I had a local mobile paint business. For five years, I went into restaurants, set up 40 to 50 women in a room and taught them how to paint. When I found Stu and TRIBE and started my membership, my goal was to gain more control over my time. 

I was resenting that I was missing things happening with my daughters, I wasn’t cooking my family dinner, wasn’t getting to take them to volleyball practices, and I was missing school games. It was making me mad and I knew something’s got to change. I thought I could take the idea of teaching people in person and teach people online. So, I launched in April of 2018. I had no audience, except for those who were my local paint ladies who painted with me, and a Facebook page where I had about 10,000 followers at that time. They were all local, no one knew me outside of Springfield. So, they were my guinea pigs. I told them that I’m going to start this membership, and we had around 67 or 69 women signed up when I offered it at the beginning.


The Journey 

Stu McLaren: Your reason for wanting to do this was the tension between what you were doing at night and your local business where you were teaching paint parties. What happened after you launched and welcomed your first 67 members? 

Christie Hawkins: It did not come fast. It was a slow build and a slow journey. I started in April of 2018, and did my first launch in September of 2018. So, from April to September, I started doing Facebook Lives which made me really uncomfortable. I was terrible when I started but I started trying to build my audience online and get in front of more people outside of Springfield. So, I launched again in September.

Stu McLaren: I’ll share with everybody because this is common. In that first year, you’re getting your grounding, so it’s not going to be perfect. This is why one of the best things that you can do is to get going, because then it gives you time to learn about your members, how to show up for them and how to market and position the membership. This is what was happening for you in that first year, right, Christie?

Christie Hawkins: Yeah. I’m the kind of girl who throws spaghetti at the wall and sees what sticks. I did not worry about it being perfect. It’s a growing process, and I’m constantly getting feedback from my members. What do you like? What do you not like? What do you want more of? Especially that first group of women in that first year, they helped me mold my membership into what it has become today. And it is evolved, it is completely different going into year three than it was in the beginning.

Stu McLaren: Do you roughly know how many members you welcomed in September?

Christie Hawkins: At the end of 2018 in that September launch, I was only at 120 members. In June of 2019, I had 189 members.

Stu McLaren: I want to show people the trajectory of your growth. In that first year, you had almost tripled the membership. Talk to us about what had happened going from June of 2019 to January of 2020. 

Christie Hawkins: January of 2020, I had hit 400 members. That meant I had doubled my membership. I couldn’t believe it, and I had completely replaced my income. I didn’t have to do local paint nights anymore. We had extra income, I was able to spend more time with the kids, we were able to take vacations, everything was coming together. And I loved our group, what we were doing and what it was bringing to people. 


Growing in Times of COVID 

Stu McLaren: When COVID hit, what was going through your mind?

Christie Hawkins: That was so crazy. I always launch in March and I had just finished launching. The next day after I ended my launch was when the world shut down. But that launch was insane, I went from 400 to 850 women. Again, I had doubled my membership from September to March. 

At that time I found that COVID actually helped my business. Initially, it was scary and crazy and we had members drop because they were scared, none of us knew what to expect. They didn’t know what their income was going to be, so we had some dropouts. But the weird thing was that people were also asking me to get back in. They were like, ‘Now I’m home, I have money and time, and I’ve always wanted to know how to paint. I have nothing else to do.’ 

People were coming into the membership, but in that process I started a second membership. I had wanted to do it for over a year, but I was scared it was going to affect my current membership. My VIP membership is $47 a month, and I wanted to offer something to those who wanted to paint with me but couldn’t pay that much. I hesitated, but when COVID hit, I came up with the Painting of the Month Club that we launched in May of 2020 for $20 a month. 

Stu McLaren: Many times we think that with COVID, everybody’s going to shut down. But I think one of the things that you just emphasized, it’s given people more time to focus on the things that they want to do and the skills they want to learn. So we’ve actually seen a boom in memberships during this time, which is a huge plus for those of us in the membership world and/or very encouraging for those who are thinking about entering the membership world. After you launched this second membership in May of 2020, how many people did you end up welcoming?

Christie Hawkins: In our opening launch, we had almost 350 women join in May of 2020. What was going through my mind is, whose life am I living and what is happening? That was the exact two years into this business. 


Gaining Financial Security

Stu McLaren: In a time of tremendous uncertainty, you were creating more and more certainty in your business, as you were continuing to grow your VIP membership and simultaneously growing this entry level membership. Fast forward, talk to us about how the rest of the year has gone.

Christie Hawkins: My husband’s a chiropractor, and when everything closed down, Corey didn’t work for almost a month, and that was a huge part of our income. But having that and starting that second membership allowed us to not be terrified. It gave us that security you talked about. 

Stu McLaren: I appreciate you saying that. The predictability and stability of that recurring revenue shows up in a big significant way when you need it most, and that’s why I love memberships. 

Christie Hawkins: I’m telling y’all, if you don’t have one, you need to find one and start it. From there, the next six months of that year were pure insanity. I did open my tribe back up during COVID because I was getting so many messages from people wanting to join. I had more members join and we stayed at about the 850-900 level. Then, I launched again in September. In the meantime, Painting of the Month Club was growing too. At the beginning of November, the second membership had about 650 members, and my VIP membership had about 900 members.


Proof that Effort Pays Off 

Stu McLaren: Talk to me about what’s going through your mind now, as you are continuing to grow these two memberships.

Christie Hawkins: September is a big month for me with all the holidays that people want paintings for. So you got to be on it – coming up with ideas for your audience. We had worked on tweaking this membership, tweaking my marketing, my life, what I’m offering, what I’m giving. I’ve started a blog that people can go to for painting tips that we really solidified in 2020. I was doing all my Pinterest, all these things to give to my audience and to get to my September launch. We put a ton of money and effort into this. 

I did a challenge called the Funky Flowers Challenge, and we had 3300 women sign up. The last challenge I did had 500 women sign up for it. It was a $10 challenge, and I used that money for Facebook ads for my launch, and then I opened the cart. I didn’t even know what was happening but we brought in 400 women in the first 24 hours into my $47 membership. 


Why Memberships are Truly Life Changing [26:07]

Stu McLaren: The entrepreneurial journey is all about trying different things, experimenting, and then identifying what’s working and doing more of that. How has life changed for you with all this?

Christie Hawkins: I’m on a girls’ trip right now with my other creative business friends. This is part of how my life has changed – I’m working on a beach right now with my best friends that we’ve done this journey together and it’s allowed us the ability to be able to do something like this. Our life at home is completely different, we’ve been able to make home renovations, and even in the midst of this crazy year, we have been fortunate enough to still be able to travel and do things in a safe way. It’s allowed us so much time together as a family, opportunities that we can give our kids. We’re putting in a pool in the backyard. My oldest daughter turned 17 and I have about a year and a half left with her, and we wanted to be able to put the pool to have her graduation party at our house so badly. We want to be able to host all her friends, to be the house they want to come to and keep them coming home when she goes to college. And that she can pick what college she wants to go to and we can make that happen for her.


Lessons Learnt and Final Advice 

Stu McLaren: What would you say to somebody who’s thinking about their membership, what have you learned through this journey?

Christie Hawkins: One, you have to move past fear. Fear is paralyzing. It’s the same with business as it is with painting – if you’re looking at a blank canvas, fear will paralyze you. And it’ll paralyze you if you’re looking at a business idea and you’re scared. You have to move past that, and the only way to move past that is to take action. The second you take action, the fear goes away. You have to move past that, to take risks, to take chances, and it’s okay to fail. The more you fail, the better you’re going to be. Whatever your idea is, get your plan together, and then talk about it. You’re never going to know if you don’t try.

Stu McLaren: I know this is really just the beginning. There is so much more that’s going to be coming your way in the upcoming months and years ahead. Any final words for everybody watching and listening?

Christie Hawkins: You got to listen to Stu. Literally, I would not be here without Stu, I would not be here without TRIBE. But you can’t just take TRIBE, you have to implement TRIBE and do what he says. Keep doing it, keep working at it and keep making the mistakes. This man is so wise. 

Memorable Quotes

Do more of what works, less of what doesn’t.” – Stu McLaren

The more you fail, the better you’re going to be.” – Christie Hawkins


The Social Easel
The Social Easel Painting of the Month Club
Christie’s Inner Tribe

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